Trauma lives in the body and affects us on a cellular level, which can result in experiences of disconnection and disempowerment. Science shows that interoceptive skills can also be diminished in survivors of trauma. It can be excruciatingly difficult for survivors to sense what is happening in their bodies (tightened muscles, increased heart rate, body temperature, etc.), and in addition, their ability to take full, expansive breaths can be compromised.
Through empowering, invitational language, choice is reclaimed by the survivor during Trauma-Informed Yoga (TIY). Through TIY, survivors can learn to listen to their bodies and move in a way that will nurture and support their needs in any given moment. After experiencing TIY, survivors can develop a stronger capacity for self-compassion and introspection. TIY utilizes interoceptive cues which provide the opportunity for survivors to be more embodied and to cultivate a sense of safety within their body. For example, participants are invited to notice from a place of compassion and curiosity where tension, tightness and constriction might be held in their body and then explore softening those parts to create a little more ease and space. Through regular practice, survivors can feel more grounded and empowered as they learn to self-regulate. The tools they develop on the yoga mat can translate to their daily lives. Though survivors may still experience triggers from their trauma, profound freedom is gained when they can respond to these triggers while remaining connected to body and breath. Their ability to be embodied and present is no longer limited by the trauma.
More than anything, Trauma-Informed Yoga honors the survivor exactly where they are in any given moment. The discoveries they make on the mat can become a way of life off the mat. Trauma-Informed Yoga celebrates the journey of the survivor as they befriend their body and breath, but most of all reclaim their inner wisdom and power within.
“It is proven that trauma lives in the body which is why body-based treatments like yoga can be effective in reducing symptomology. A three year NIH funded yoga and trauma study found that participation in trauma-informed gentle yoga leads to a significant reduction in symptoms of PTSD-including fewer intrusive thoughts and less dissociation from the body. There are many incredible benefits to a trauma informed practice that survivors have shared including but not limited to: feelings of safety and strength, development of positive coping methods, a development of a strong sense of community, decreased feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety, strengthened self-esteem, and the feeling of empowerment to seek other resources such as counseling and medical support.” ~Zabie Yamasaki, M.Ed, RYT, Founder, Transcending Sexual Trauma through Yoga, Trauma-Informed Yoga Instructor, The Breathe Network: Trauma-Informed Yoga Teacher Training Manual